July 24, 2013 By Wallin & Klarich

Protests nationwide over the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman are continuing. Six female jurors in Seminole County had the option of finding Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder or the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. Zimmerman, a member of the Neighborhood Watch team in his community, was charged after he shot 17-year-old Treyvon Martin following a scuffle.

Zimmerman claimed innocence citing Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which states that a person may justifiably use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, without an obligation to retreat first. The jurors found Zimmerman not guilty. The issue of race and racial profiling has also played a significant role in this case since Treyvon Martin was African-American.

Why the Voluntary Manslaughter Option?

An interesting question that many asked in connection with this case was: Why did the jury suddenly get the option of finding Zimmerman guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The answer is somewhat simple: Because the judge had stated they could. Under Florida law, the judge chose to give jurors in this case the option of convicting Zimmerman of voluntary manslaughter if they weren’t convinced that the defendant acted out of “ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent.” Zimmerman has said that he shot Martin in self-defense. Zimmerman’s lawyers said Treyvon used the sidewalk and his fists as weapons during their scuffle.

California Laws Relating to Voluntary Manslaughter

This Florida verdict definitely raises some interesting points of comparison – How would such a case play out here in our California courts? If a person says he has killed someone in self-defense, will the district attorney charge you with murder or voluntary manslaughter? If your criminal defense attorney is unable to convince the prosecution to reduce the charge to voluntary manslaughter, then the case could proceed to trial. During the trial, the jury will decide if the prosecutor has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has committed murder, voluntary manslaughter, or neither.

Under California Penal Code Section 192 (a), voluntary manslaughter is the “unlawful killing of a human being without malice upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.” To obtain a conviction for voluntary manslaughter, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was provoked; that he or she acted “in the heat of the passion”; and that the provocation would have caused a reasonable person in the same situation to have acted in the same manner.

Serious and Long-Term Consequences

If convicted of voluntary manslaughter, individuals face up to 11 years in state prison and up to $10,000 in court fines or probation. Also, under California’s Three Strikes Law, voluntary manslaughter is considered a felony “strike.” If you are convicted of three felony strikes in your lifetime, you will face a sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Obviously, the consequences of a voluntary manslaughter conviction can be severe and life changing.

If you have been charged with murder or voluntary manslaughter, it is imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will protect your rights at every step of the process and work toward the best possible outcome in your case. When it comes to criminal defense, there is no substitution for experience, which is why all the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich know the rules, judges, and prosecutors in each of the local courts. Because our attorneys are very familiar with the court where your case is pending, we are able to achieve the best possible result in your case. Time is the most important factor on your end, so if you or a loved one is charged with voluntary manslaughter, don’t delay. Call toll free at 1(888)-280-6839, and you will put in touch with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys in the quickest manner possible.

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